David Engford

original trick
Engford Family: Harry, Ruthie, David, Lois.

David Engford was the only non-performing member of the Engford family. His sister, Ruthie, provides this information. "David wasn't really interested in becoming a performer, although he practiced many things as a boy. Walking a wire was something he liked. Practicing as catcher in a flying act. Doing handstands on top of a stool or chair, etc. When we were on tour, he did most of the driving. Hauling around all our equipment. Assisting in any way needed. He ran spotlight at times. Helped the Show put up scenery, etc. David always assisted in my aerial act too. Swinging me, taking me off the web when I came down."

As Ruthie says, "David did practice with Ronnie Abbot of the "Flying Abbots" working as a catcher and also worked with me. (Photos) He has been my lifelong support and inspiration, as I was learning gymnastic and aerial work. Always remaining in the background, and pushing me out front."

David was also an accomplished musician. His favorite instrument was the guitar, but also played the drums.

This letter from N W Ayer & Son, dated Sept. 21, 1955, asking for information regarding David's Calvert School Service (this was at a time when correspondence courses were not readily available) asks some interesting questions. Lois Engford began to answer the questions almost immediately. We have a partially completed draft of her response. Ruthie is also taking these courses.

Dear Mrs. Engford:

One of the travel magazines is interested in writing a story on the Calvert School's service to children who are constantly traveling with their parents. I should very much appreciate your giving me some information that might be incorporated in this story. If you could, would you give me the answers to the following questions?

  • How many weeks out of the year, on the average, is your family on the road"?
  • How do you usually travel -- train, bus, car, trailer?
  • How many miles do you average in a year?
  • How long, on the average, do you stay in one place?
  • Where do you usually stay -- hotels, motels, trailer parks, homes of friends?
  • Could you tell me something about David's daily routine?
  • Does he find playmates wherever you go? When does he study his Calvert lessons?
  • Who teaches him?
  • Has David had any unique experiences during your travels?

This, and any other informtion you might give me, will be very helpful. If you have any pictures of David, we'd like very much to see them and we'll return them promptly.

We are also workirg with ore of too show business publications on a story about Calvert children in show business. Do you ever use David in your act?

Thank you for your trouble.
Sincerely yours,
Donald C. Thompson
Supervisor, Public Relations Department

David's mother provides an interesting description of "life on the road" in her draft response:

Plover Wisconsin, Oct. 7, 1955

Your letter of inquiry was waiting for us when we got back home a few days ago from the closing of our Fair route in the Ozark's of Arkansas.

I shall be glad to give you the information you asked for.

We are really "on the road" all the time, but we try to locate in an area so that some of the dates we can commute to/from our trailer, other times we stay in motels or hotels.

One of the first things we do after getting in a new area is to take out a library card and find a church of our choice.

We have 2 trailers - one a large, modern fully equipped one with everything we need, including TV and the other a small, compact one for travel. We used the small one on our route of Fairs and Celebrations this summer - from July 3 until just a few days ago. Since we are a Grandstand Attraction in these events, our trailer serves as an essential dressing room besides being our living quarters.

We average 29,000 miles per year.

We are in what we call the "club date field", meaning we play banquets and conventions shows. They are held in hotels and auditoriums and are 1 show performances. They are usually annual shows. We stay in an area about a year or so.

David has an older sister Ruthie who has also been a Calvert student for the past 6 years. She is now studying the 9th year course.

David has a pet dog "Tippy" who is nearly 13 years old and always travels with us. We had a much travelled pet rabbit (Abbot) too, until we lost her in the 106 degree of this July. She was house broken to go for walks on a leash like a bog. She had her own special "house" outside our trailer. She was a wonderful pet and we all miss her. She is buried in the garden of a kind hearted stranger in the little Illinois town where she died.

David makes friends very easily and always has a "gang" of boys around. For the past few years, he has engineered the building of "huts" and "tree houses" in the various camps where we've lived. He keeps up a correspondence with some of his friends after we move.

We do our school work following breakfast & David does his homework after the regular daily lesson is completed.

I, his mother teach David and his father teaches Ruthie.

We try to see the wonders of our country as we travel around. In August we were in Rapid City. So. Dakota. We had the time to spend a day and a half at Mt. Rushmore, Wild Bill Hitchcock Museum etc. While visiting Wild Bill Hitchcock's grave, a terrible wind storm came up - for a few minutes we thought we'd end up on Boot Hill with Wild Bill & Calamity Jane. We all thrilled to the Passion Play in Spearfish, So. Dakota. It is held in a natural amphitheater setting and no amplifier system is needed to carry the voices to the 6,000 spectators. A trip through the Badlands was included too.

David does not work in the act but is being trained, so that when he is older, & he should choose to profession, then his ability will be developed.

Here ends the draft that we have.

David was an employee of the Circus World MuseumOpens in new page/tab in 1964-65. His family performed there for the summers beginning in 1964. David now lives in Baraboo, Wisconsin and is frequently seen at the Museum. The photo below was taken by Eldon "Buster" Bailey in 1964.

Performers and staff 1964
Back row l-t: Edna Dee Curtis Christiansen, Paul Luckey, Mayme Ward, Jorgen Christiansen,
Ethal Romelfanger, ’Raz-Bo’ Clown - Richard Bennett, John Herriott, Mary Ruth Herriott, Colleen Barnhart,
Lois Engford, Harry Engford, ’Esrteleta’ - Ruthie Engford
Knelling: Frank Braun, David Engford, Edith Barnhart, Larry McNurlin




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